Japan shot the ball at a stellar 56% from the field throughout the contest, including 11 of 22 from the three-point line. By comparison, the Sapphires were just 1 of 11 from the same range. Japanese Captain Noriko Sakakibara led the all scorers with 17 points (5 of 6 threes) and was ably assisted by swing guard Emi Isoyama (15 points, 2 of 3 threes) and Yumi Iwamura (12 points, 4 of 6 threes).
Co-captains Renae Camino (15 points) and Kathleen Macleod (12 points, 4 assists) were the best of the back court for the Australians, whilst nineteen year old Cayla Francis was typically effort-driven in accumulating her 9 points and 8 rebounds.
Japanese National Women 95 (Noriko Sakakibara 17, Emi Isoyama 15, Hiromi Suwa 12, Yumi Iwamura 12) defeated Australian Sapphires 60 (Renae Camino 15, Kathleen Macleod 12, Cayla Francis 9) at the AIS
Sunday’s game was a far more willing contest with Australian Coach Gary Fox resting Camino and Macleod as well as the desperately unlucky Erin Lorenzini, who had dislocated her collarbone in the dying minutes of the previous night’s game.
With team positions on the line, the young Sapphires for almost the first time in the series took matters right up to their more experienced opponents, eventually being just edged out 73-70.
Back door plays now became a rarity for the visitors and vastly improved defensive adjustments to screening actions allowed the Australians to match every surge Japan mustered.
Francis (22 points, 11 rebounds) was outstanding and fellow forwards Abby Bishop (10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and a blossoming Elyse Penaluna (13 points, 8 rebounds) ensured the crowd at Belconnen Stadium saw an exciting finish.
In the end though, the polished perimeter shooting of the Japanese team (9 of 19 threes) and multiplicity of scoring options (8 players with at least six points) saw them squeak home.
Japanese National Women 73 (Yuko Oga 12, Noriko Sakakibara 11, Ai Mitani 10) defeated Australian Sapphires 70 (Cayla Francis 22, Elyse Penaluna 13, Jenna O’Hea 10, Abby Bishop 10) at the AIS